After 20 years, Hewlett-Packard has finalized its exit strategy from the microprocessor business and hopes to train its channel to become experts on Intel's 64-bit architecture.
After about three more refreshes, HP plans to pull the plug on its PA-RISC line and then walk away,with no regrets, says Duane Zitzner, president of the vendor's computing business.
"There's a strong belief at HP,and we believed the same thing before [our change in strategy],that RISC is going to flatten," he says. "The RISC architectures as we know it today will flatten, and we had to go to the next lead.
"We had predicted that CISC would flatten, and we shifted to RISC," he says. "At first, people questioned that and then they followed suit."
HP has been competing with IBM's PowerPC-based technology, Compaq's Alpha processor technology and Sun Microsystems' SPARC processor technology. Now HP is throwing in the RISC towel and putting all of its chips on Intel.
On the Itanium side, Intel will leave it to OEMs to work with solution providers to prime the channel on the chip maker's 64-bit platform, at least at the outset, says Paul Otellini, executive vice president at Intel and general manager of the Intel Architecture Group.
"From Intel's perspective, this is not a channel-enabled product the way we do with boxed processors and motherboards," Otellini says. "At this point in its life, [Itanium] is strictly an OEM product, and the channel will get trained and served from the OEM customers."
And HP is fully ready to pick up that ball with solution providers, Zitzner says. "From an HP perspective, our plan is to work with the channel and train the channel on the capabilities and [technology] that we have," he says. "We'd like to turn our channel partners into Itanium experts so they can help counsel our customer set on how they should proceed with the architecture."
Though generally supportive of HP's unified server strategy, the vendor's partners say they have yet to receive much in the way of information or preparation for training on Itanium.
"There would be a little bit of a ramp-up [needed to move into 64-bit architecture], but I'm sure that with the proper information and support from HP we wouldn't have a problem," says Mike Bacza, service operations manager at Aisa Technologies, an HP solution provider in Chicago.
"It all depends on how compatible [Itanium] is," he says, adding that the transition should be easier because Microsoft is supporting the 64-bit technology.
In addition to training, HP plans to offer consulting services and marketing to help its channel partners shift to Itanium from a PA-RISC-based or Intel 32-bit-based business, Zitzner says.